Keep Off The Grass: Guide to the Libraries

Oxford's independent freshers' guide brings you an alternative tour of its hallowed halls

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If you like feeling smug about tourists, try the Radcliffe Camera!

Living in Oxford, you’ll quickly become accustomed to the hordes of tourists waiting to ambush you around every corner, with their matching caps and their inability to stand anywhere other than the middle of the road. But nowhere do they congregate more than underneath the Radcliffe Camera, that big round one in all the photos where historians and literature students spend most of their waking hours. No-one ever tires of brandishing their Bod card as they push through the crowds and dramatically sweep through the gate, before taking one quick look round when you get to the door to make sure they all saw you do it. Stereotypes are there to be played up to.

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If you like industrial décor, try the Gladstone Link!

I’m glad the Gladstone Link exists. No, really. There’s nothing better than cold, dead metal, strip lighting and impassive white walls to encourage you to drill out an essay as fast as possible. Connecting the Radcliffe Camera and the Old Bodleian buildings – two of the nicest places in the city – it resembles a factory more than a library, and that’s before you even get to the dead-eyed historians inhabiting it. And then it goes down another level! And you can’t even take books out of the Lower Gladstone Link, forcing you to stay in that dungeon as it slowly drives you insane.

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If you like the heat of a thousand suns, try the SSL!

Air conditioning was invented multiple decades ago, but the Social Sciences Library doesn’t seem to have caught on to that. Instead, it exists to give every student working there a chance to experience that nasty sweat you get after running for a train for several hours at a time. Middle of winter? Take some time to strip off those four extra layers you had on, and then freeze yourself as soon as you step out the building! Depths of summer? Slowly suffocate as the lack of ventilation stimulates life inside a sealed glass cube! Just another high price to pay for studying PPE.

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If you like misery, try the Sackler!

God, I hate the Sackler. How can a library be this depressing? What have they done to make it like this? Maybe it’s the focus on art history, meaning everyone in there is either aggressively good-looking or a hippy. Or the fact you can’t take rucksacks larger that a sheet of A4 upstairs with you. Or perhaps the circular design, which means you can only see the desks extending around both in front and behind you, with seemingly no end. I don’t know what it is, but it’s miserable, and I would have to be dragged kicking and screaming back in there.

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If you like Drake’s latest album, try the Weston!

Yes, I’m totally going to make this dreadful joke, and nothing anyone says is going to stop me. The Weston’s recently-completed refurbishment has given the library a lovely reading room on the top floor, with a lovely view of the old heart of the city looking out over Broad Street. Even better, there’s a terrace on the floor above to give a completely unobstructed view of Oxford’s spires. All in all, this is the best library in Oxford if you’re a fan of great views.

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If you like science, try the Radcliffe Science Library!

I’m not really sure why scientists need a library, to be honest. Isn’t science just full of formulae? Why don’t you just look them up online? If I was a scientist, with future job prospects and all that jazz, I’d probably try to avoid reading books as much as possible, and do fun things like dissecting alligators or building jet planes. I’ve heard that both of those things definitely happen, although I also hear that designing bridges is getting a bit tiring for the engineers and they’d like to move on to something more fun, like light switches.

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